Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Day in the Life of Kal-El

I am working hard on a larger post regarding work plans (It's up!  You can read it here).  Here is a sneak peek at Kal-El's work plan from Monday.  A few of you mentioned that it would be helpful to see how his work flows in and out of the work plan.  He has an envelope of work cards to choose from and he chose four math cards and one language card.  We had a three-hour work period in the school room.

Kal-El instigated a family game of "Old Maid" after breakfast.  Unfortunately Kal-El was dealt the Old Maid at the beginning of the game, kicked up a huge crying fit, and Me Too and I played the game by ourselves.  Because Me Too would not have been able to hold his cards if we only played a two-handed game, I also played Kal-El's hand as if he had stayed.  Kal-El would have won :)  Hopefully he learned something from that.

To cheer himself up,  Kal-El kicked off his work period with a chemistry experiment from his Sciencewiz Chemistry Experiments Kit (thanks Grammie!) today it was using a long balloon (the type used to make balloon animals) to observe how gas has no definite shape.

Afterward he asked for a word study.  He wasn't sated after just one and wound up doing three word studies from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  All of them were regarding R-controlled vowels.

He transformed short vowel words by adding an "r."

He matched sentences (containing many "ar" words) to pictures.

There was also a little homemade reader chock full of "ar" words.  I have to keep pretty far ahead of him when preparing reading work.  There is just no telling how much he will do in a week.  Me Too often wants to keep going until we've done about three lessons.

When he finished the word studies he took out a laminated map of his brother's room, hid a "treasure" (anything shiny or sparkly from the manipulatives drawers seem to be fair game) in it, and marked its location on the map for Me Too to find.

Next on his agenda was the dot game.  He invented three equations and completed them on the dot board.  Two were multiplication and one was addition.

He pulled out his Cub Scout Academic and Sports Program Guide and decided to do some work toward the Astronomy belt loop.  He read the requirements page on his own and decided which steps he wanted to do today.  We don't have a telescope, so he got out his binoculars and asked me to give him some binoculars challenges.  I had him use the binoculars out the school room window to read some far away addresses and licence plate numbers to me from various neighbors' houses.  Then, he got out some paper and drew a diagram of our solar system.  On Friday we read a newspaper article about the meteorite that landed in Russia and watched a few videos of the event.  He realized that this was part of one of the requirements (Find a news story about a recent happening related to space. Tell your den or family about this event.).  We had talked about it as a family, but Kal-El realized that for a proper "discussion" he should know more about what a meteorite really is.  He found a book that talked about it in our home research library, read about it, and then voluntarily told me all about what he learned (I now know the difference between a meteor and a meteorite).   Finally, he started a research project to define the various terms that the belt loop requires.  He used a book about the solar system to create definitions of "solar system," "meteor," and "star map" onto lined paper and entered them in his "Universe Binder."  He has more to do, but it was a good start.

The next thing pulled off the shelf was the multiple addends work with the bead bars. This is his favorite right now.  He was super proud when he pulled out 7+5+1+1 and realized just from looking at it that it reduces to 7+7 and knew that 7+7=14!  He was really excited to write it all down without pulling out the bead bars at all.  He did about six equations and entered them into his notebook.

Kal-El went straight to the bead frame next.  He found the frame paper on the writing shelf, invented four dynamic addition equations, and recorded his work. He also invented one multiplication equation.  I guess he's ready to move on :)

Finally he received his first presentation on the addition of fractions.  He thought this was "silly easy" and completed the entire first drawer of prepared addition equations and recorded them in his fractions notebook.  I have to show you our updated fraction cabinet later this week!

I was happy and super relieved that he intuitively reduced his fractions with no prompting from me. In fact, he gets to the reduced fraction right away and sometimes skips the original sum.  For example, when he added 1/8 and 3/8 the first sum he told me was 1/2.  Can someone with experience tell me whether I should be making him back up and write down 4/8 first?

After all of this he was clamoring for lunch.  He ate and chatted with his brother.  Then, he played outside for an hour mostly digging around in the snow.  When he came in he wanted to get ready for his Cub Scouts den meeting but he needed to practice violin first.  He is still in Suzuki book one and we typically play every song in the book (and any exercises his teacher has assigned in-between) up to the final song he knows each day being sure to keep all of the practice points in place.  We also sing the letter names of the song or two ahead of what he is playing. I know this only means something if your kid plays Suzuki violin, but if your kid does I'm sure you are curious :)  Right now he can play up through Andantino and he is learning to sing Etude.

Kal-El dressed for scouts and then approached me to ask if I would pretend to be his den leader so he could practice a few presentations he planned to give at his den meeting.  A few weeks ago my husband helped him make a poster about Kal-El's mountain biking hobby so that he could talk to his den about it toward his communications pin.  He also wanted to perform a magic trick for them if time allowed.  He has been planning all of this on his own, but wanted to practice talking with an audience before his meeting.  It was fun to hear his ideas!

Next he was off to his den meeting.  He had a blast and the whole family got to hear all about it during dinner.

There was a lot of roughhousing with Dad after dinner.  However, before bed he found some time to read part of a Jack Stalwart book...they are his FAVORITE.  Whenever he gets his hands on a new one of these he reads it in just a few hours.  I think he is on number 10 right now.  I'm looking for recommendations for a new series for him at about this same level if anyone has any suggestions.


  1. We have that red chart! I used it to display the large number cards for the golden beads because I've had tutoring children off and on who needed those displayed to start seeing the patterns (the small cards we stored behind).

    I LOVE the idea of using that as a starter work plan or a work journal!

    When I have children who jump right to the final answer, I kind of feel the waters for what they need - some children do well with just a verbal, "Yes, that is one-half; how many parts of 8 make that half?" and some do need to develop the habit of writing it out for later --- there is typically plenty of time in the future for requiring every single tedious step (fondly known as high school math ;) ) - at the earlier ages, the verbal works well.

    My own son needs constant habit development I have learned, so while I might let him skip some steps, I do want him to write the "straight answer" (we call it), THEN he can write the final answer. Because I know I don't want to deal with that habit struggle in the teen years! But again, that's this one child - I've had other (typically tutoring) children who went on to such requirements in school with only have the verbal cue from me from time to time and they did wonderful.

    "Follow the child" ;) Never a dull moment!

  2. Jessica,

    "Starter" is a great way to describe it. I'll be happy when we move over to your paperclip version.

    Thank you for the advice on the fraction work!

  3. Love how you execute the Work Plan! I like how visual it is and how he is still able to choose works effortlessly. We love the chemistry kit too. Thank you for sharing.

  4. (I hope my use of the word starter didn't offend you! I used it because of a comment you made on another blog that you were looking to change up what you were currently doing, so I was saying, I do like this one though! I hope that all made sense ;) )

    I showed it to my son and he said he might have liked that better than the basket with cards we used - use the same cards, but he had a few different ways to organize things - more visual - either with the whole week like you showed; or just one day at a time; columns for "to do" and "finished"; and I don't know what all else. I think he just likes to be creative :)

    I just love the growing number of ideas that are popping up all over :) If it's giving HIM ideas, it is definitely giving parents ideas ;)

  5. I swear that I commented yesterday, but can't find it here! I just wanted to say that I love this post. My two cents would be to start now to develop the habit of showing all steps. Glad to see u starting the fraction addition work, did u wait till all the equivalences were memorized?

  6. Hi MBT - thank you Kal-el for showing us your day!

    MBT, I am so about to buy All about spelling Level1 and Level2- but then you also use the 'Ordinary Parents guide to reading'. My 5.5yo fully reads now and need to focus on word building. Could I please ask, which one you would recommend more between the two?

    Oh and your discussion about the work plans, I've so been thinking about lately. Would never have thought of the chart you used and what a fantastic idea! I'm now planning to make one. I love Jessica's article on why 6yo need a work plan, as they step into their next plane of development!

    Thank you again.

  7. Oh, I forgot to mention. I observed a cycle 1 class. Her 5yo's that were leaving soon were each given a work plan, printed and laminated. She had activities down the page, Mon-Fri across the page with the following that they had to tick off, as they completed it:

    Story Writing
    Function of words
    Puzzle words
    Metal inset

    As they completed each activity, they ran over to the list and ticked it off for the day.

    Interesting that in Science behind the genius, she talks about this choice of work. That doing a list, means once that job is done, they don't choose it again, because they've done the task. So because I'm observing I can hear the kids talk - and truly, two boys are working together. They've done one set of number (math) work. Then the one says to the other later in the morning, 'let's do the bead chains'. The other boy says, 'No, we've already done number work'!

    I found that fascinating seeing that process in action. It's the one thing I have feared in doing a work plan. But after reading Jessica's article and seeing how MeToo loves lists, maybe I do just need to implement to try. I like how you have his work plan and he choices. This is apparently very important in Science Behind the Genius - that they choose, to aid learning. I just didn't know how to get the balance with the list above - you're plan is better!


  8. Dream Before You,

    I wonder if you are confusing the "All About Spelling" with "All About Reading"? All About Reading and the OPG might be interchangeable, but AAS and OPG are NOT interchangeable. One is a spelling program and one is a reading program. The last time I clandestinely checked Kal-El's reading level (for whatever those "checks" are worth) he tested at fifth grade and four months. So, obviously we are not using the OPG to learn to read...he learned to read using Montessori/Dwyer. We use the OPG to organize word study. I talked about it a bit here: http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/2011/04/dwyer-part-five-after-object-boxes.html and of course you noticed the WAY the lessons were used from the pictures in the post. We don't use the book as intended. I don't have any experience with AAR.

  9. Dream Before You,

    Well, as the author stated in The Science Behind the Genius, "The research suggests that there are motivational costs to this approach, but if a child was not motivated to begin with, it might become necessary." She also states that "one task of the Montessori teacher is to ensure children engage in all areas." The scenario you described makes me cringe. I feel the same way about those stupid "learning targets" they insist every public school teacher give the kids at the start of every class. "Your learning target today is 'I will be able to name the three states of matter'." Way to tell the kids to completely tune out unless they hear the words "The three states of matter are." Way to train the kids that a 40 minute learning experience can be distilled to a one-sentence bullet point an that there was nothing else to be gained there.

    I have two VERY intrinsically-motivated kids... however the "anything goes" approach that I used in primary wasn't getting my kids through the necessary work. Even when my requirements were as minimal as "choose ANY three maths a day" the pitfalls were obvious. For example, I presented the fraction equivalence work in October and Kal-El mostly finished it that month. But then he wouldn't choose it and wouldn't choose it and wouldn't choose it so I finally put it on his verbal work plan in January. Now here we are in February first doing addition of fractions. There are just too many things to keep going without an occasional push.

    So, the way I approach it is this. If Kal-El were choosing fractions on his own on a weekly basis I would NOT put it on his work plan. I would let him choose it on his own. The things I put on the plan are things he needs to do that he isn't choosing, or things he isn't balancing. He tends to do one thing to the exclusion of all others.

    The Lillard book handles this with the work journals plus meetings. The meeting is the work plan. As the author suggested, the teacher might say, "I see you have not followed up on the Grammar Box lesson I gave you on Tuesday. When do you plan to do that?" She continues, "The child makes a time commitment, but it comes from himself or herself. The child has a sense of control."

    If I left Kal-El to his own devices for the last five months he would ONLY be doing science experiments all day every day. No math...even though he shouts out "I love math!" and "This is so easy!" and "this is so fun!" while he does math.

    Another simple way some people approach this is to put the state requirements on the wall and have the kids work toward them. That may be enough for the right kind of kid.

    The good news is, Kal-El had "bead chain" on his chart today. He ASKED to follow it up with a game of SPEED! that matched the chain. Then he ASKED to play three OTHER decks of SPEED! One thing I notice about the list you provided being so non-specific yet so short is that it is easy to check off a whole category of work and narrow pursuits. I'm also surprised by some of the choices on there.

  10. Dream Before You,

    Another thing I just thought of...

    The boys also know that if the do A LOT of something I will take it off of their work plan. For example, if I see them choosing it on their own or doing many many presentations worth of something in a sitting it comes off of the requirements. For some reason they like this.

    "Reading" is something I could easily take off their work plans. They usually ask for about three works before they move on. They choose that work on their own all the time. I only leave it on there because it makes them so happy to see it there.

  11. MBT says it really well above :)

    The work plan is not intended to dictate everything a child does, nor is it intended to cut a child off from further work.

    The first time I ever brought up work plans on a yahoo group, someone responded that her child would do just that: the bare minimum and nothing else.

    But then we have children who choose deep and wonderful work but also avoid some subjects entirely - we want to keep their love of learning, but we also need to keep them moving *to an extent* - it's all in the balance. ;)

    It is easy in a school to say, here are the minimum requirements for the week, then you have the rest of the work cycle to choose additional work; at home it is easier to "fade out of the work cycle" without a firm time limit. Thus, I approach our at-home plans a bit differently, and am far more thorough than I would be in a school.

    With that said, I've seen such schools as described above - and they end up with bored children, behavior issues and teachers who resort to more and more traditional ways (or more "extras" without any more depth to what is already available).

    THAT language of clarification for the children must done in conversation - that we are helping the child organize his time to get some required work done, as well as plan in his own interests, while still maintaining flexibility of schedule and moods and such.

    Hence, there is no one-size-fits-all (even for the same child from one year or month to the next ;) ) .

  12. Thanks DM!

    I have to pop over to your blog and comment somewhere about Kal-El stalking DJ on the web today :) DJ has a BIG FAN.

  13. Mommy to the Princesses,

    Oh, that drives me NUTS when that happens! Grrr.

    Well, you would think that the reason it took Kal-El from October to the end of February to get through equivalences and on to addition would have been because we were "super rigorous and memorized them all." However, it is more because he did *almost* all the work intensely in about a week and then didn't choose it for months. He memorized the equivalences in October creepily fast (am I the only one continually surprised by how effect the Montessori method is? You think I would raise my expectations at some point...but no, continually surprised.). I didn't have him brush up on them or anything before addition, we just had to get moving again. It must have stuck because he is reducing beautifully. And, I can now say because I have seen him do them twice more since Monday, that all he needed was that one gentle reminder to show his work the first session and he is doing that on his own. He does put the two drawers of fraction circles on his rug while he does the work. I noticed, from the couch where I was pretending not to watch, that he doesn't touch the circles but does look up at them occasionally to see if he needs to reduce when he gets a number that CAN'T be reduced.

  14. MBT, you can take what you wrote me, cut and paste and make another excellent article! Thank you! I'd better go get my book out and do some serious recapping.

    You have SO inspired me. Thank you. I've been sitting on the fence with this one for so long. Now I know for sure, we need some action. Thank you!

    I knew this list at the class that I mentioned was just not quite sitting right. And you hit the nail on the spot - what is missing is the detail.

    So in looking at MeToo's list - there is not much detail in his which I find interesting. I'm looking at his list and just wondering how one incorporates the still un-mastered sensorial items, such as trinomial cube, never completed square of pythagoras and we are just starting the blue right-angle triangles. What about Geography. Maybe your boys are self-motivated enough to do this work anyway?

    Like I've started the strip board with my Z5. He has never been interested in the golden beads - so really lacking in understanding place value. This has stunted/confused me, because I don't want to start the stamp game! but starting to add this detail to his list and letting him see where we need to go, might just be the "encouragement" he needs.

    Thanks for answer on AAS. Yes, I am too an avid Dwyer promoter. My 5.5 is such a good reader now and it happened so quickly, once he just tried. It was all just in him, from all the previous Dwyer work and him constantly trying to read signs and me explaining the sounds. So no, not needing AAR! I just liked how you show moving cat => cart to show the ar sound. But this is word study. I also have my sentence strips, which is also the word study that you mention at http://dreambeforeyou.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/muriel-dwyer-sentence-strips/ and have created all my phonogram folders (no interest! :( too dry) - but the 'ar' example above just looks so much like what they teach is AAS. That is why I was asking. So you recommend it? Is MeToo doing it as well? I was just wondering when to start Spelling - thinking it so much more in 6-9? I love watching your site, because my boy is just infront of MeToo and just behind Kal-el.

    If it helps or gives you more ideas, just to explain the list a bit more, from what I saw. I totally agree, especially in the Math, that detail was not good.

    The Story Writing was to encourage each day they draw a picture in their books and write a story.

    Handwriting - too vague, I don't know!

    Function of words - they had to get the grammar boxes and work on a sentence. Write it out and label the correct grammar.

    Puzzle words - she sat with each reader and did 3 puzzle words a day using 3 period lesson. Was great seeing the 3 period lesson in action. They then needed to mark those words off in their sight word booklet.

    Mapping - they had to trace a map a day.

    MI - metal insets - they needed to do one metal inset work a day.

    Sensorial - choose any sensorial work. I would have thought this OK, but now I see, one does need more detail here.

    When I asked her about the list, she said that she had just implemented this list in that last term that she had this group and these were areas that were still not well practiced enough yet and needed work.


    But, what was uneasy, was there was no discussion about it, asking what they planned to do, as you were detailing. So yes, there was just this speed race to get "through it", to finish it off so they could get to what they really wanted to do.

    Thank you again, MBT. May God richly bless you for helping a mum over the seas!

  15. Dream Before You,

    I'll tackle my response in parts :) First, some more info about Me Too's plan. Me Too is still very much a "primary" child and work plans are really more of an elementary thing. His is kind of a "training" work plan as he transitions. His work plan started with just "violin" because we were/are developing a daily habit. Six months later I added reading not because he wasn't choosing it when we had a work cycle, but also because at that time we weren't doing a "work cycle" every day but I still wanted to do a reading lesson every day. Math wound up on his chart as a category because he was avoiding it. I think it is due to the tediousness of the golden beads, but he still needs practice before he can move on to the stamp game...so tough. He doesn't have seven different math threads going on like Kal-El he has more like three so having him choose two every day gets him through everything in a very balanced day. I DID have to add the word "beads" to some of his cards because he was doing all kinds of other math to try to avoid choosing the golden beads.

    I don't have things like geography on his work plan because he chooses those on his own as you guessed. If there were something he needed to do because he was getting stuck in the sequence I would simply add a quick card to his stack. But, I haven't needed to yet.

  16. Dream Before You,

    I saw a dinosaur place value game from Learning Resources at the museum store yesterday. You might look into that.

    Yes, I definitely recommend all about spelling. It fit right into our Montessori work. I would recommend it for a child with an "elementary" mind set. It is best if they have the stamina to write ten two-three word phrases in a sitting which Me Too doesn't really have yet. I started Me Too on it (kindergarten) and stopped after about seven steps. It is a perfect fit for Kal-El. I wound up buying their magnetic alphabet because it is so much faster and less cumbersome than the boxes of wooden letters.

  17. Dream Before You,

    I like her work plan a lot more now that I know it was a daily work plan. I thought it was a weekly one. In that way the sensorial category seemed extra bizarre because who would want a primary child picking one sensorial item that may or may not meet their needs and then ticking off that ENTIRE category in the mind for a whole week?

    We are NOT as diligent with geography as she is being. I can see that you would have to be if you really want the child to get through all the maps when they have an absorbent mind. I think I just had it in my mind as acceptable to carry learning the country names over into elementary.

    I think the only problem with her work plan is that it is not individual enough. This style is probably working with some of her kids but not others. The kids who are already doing metal insets every day (as mine do) shouldn't have them on their work plan. Also, it is an important distinction between the language of math as a "category" and a specific work. f she put a specific math work for a specific kids instead of just "math" they would check of "that work" in their head but not "math" as a whole. As Jessica pointed out it is a lot about the explanations you give and the language you use with them that keeps it from becoming a "do the minimum" situation.

  18. Thanks for the new series to look into! My boys really like Geronimo Stilton and the Magic Tree house series.